tv Valerie Jarrett Discusses the Obama Administration CSPAN April 17, 2017 8:00pm-8:50pm EDT
[applause] >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1970 nine, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. it is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. tonight on c-span, we hear from two former officials from the obama administration. first a conversation with former white house senior adviser valerie jarrett former -- followed by loretta lynch speaking to students at harvard law school. president trump and the first lady host the annual easter egg role on the white house south lawn. pence meets with
military officials in the acting president of south korea. earlier this month, president obama's former senior adviser valerie jarrett spoke about her time at the white house and plans for the future which include helping to plan the obama presidential center in jackson park on the southside of chicago. this is 45 minutes. >> valerie jarrett is the longest-serving senior advisor to president barack obama, where she oversaw the offices of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs. she chaired the white house council on women and girls. throughout her tenure at the white house, she worked to
mobilize elected officials, is this is, community leaders and diverse groups of advocates. she led president obama's efforts to expand and strengthen access to the middle-class and to most american businesses and the economy. helped empower women politically and economically in the u.s. and around the world. she oversaw the administrations advocacy for workplace policies that empower working families including it will pay, raising the minimum wage, paid leave, paid sick days, work place flexibility and affordable childcare. valerie jarrett also led the campaigns to reform our criminal justice system and sexual assault and reduced gun violence. she has a background in the public and private sector is. she served as ceo of the habitat ofpany in chicago, chairman
the chicago transit board, commissioner of planning and development for the city, deputy chief of staff for mayor richard m daley. she is also served as the director of numerous corporate ,nd not-for-profit boards including as chairman of the board of chicago stock exchange, chairman of the university of chicago. medical center board of trustees, director of the federal reserve bank of chicago. numerouseceived rewards and honorary degrees including time magazine's 100 most influential people. she grew up in chicago. received her ea from stanford university. and her law degree from the university of michigan law school. just last week, she was appointed to the board of directors of chicago-based aerial investments. father, dr. james bowman,
was one of the original members of the board of directors. the obvious first question is what is it like to be in your father's seat? oh boy you are going to make me cry at the beginning? all, good afternoon. i think i know almost everybody here. no place like home. thank you for welcoming me. [applause] it is an extraordinary honor. my dad was one of the original investors. was one of the people who told him he was far too young to start the business. telling someone you are far too young to run for president. so much for my advice. my father believed in john and his mission. he is a great civic leader here
and around the world. i am honored to join it. telling thanfinish u.s. senator barack obama that he was too young to run for president, what did he say to you? valerie: the story goes back farther. i gave him my most incorrect advice when i suggested he not run for u.s. senate. those of you from chicago will note he had not that long before lost a congressional race. i said if you run so quickly and you lose again, your political career is over. it, andi'm going to do if i'm not afraid of losing, then why are you? that was actually very good sounded vice. he thought his opportunity was then so he decided to run. by the time he decided to run for president, i was like ok,
all right. you're kind of young but ok. the rest is history. >> how would you describe your experiences as advisor to the president over the last eight years? valerie: extraordinary. the best eight years of my life to be up to be there from day one until the last day and have a chance to see our country come back from what could have been the worst economic crisis of a lifetime. not since the great depression have we been on the precipice of the banks in a freefall and losing 755,000 jobs a month to. 20 million people without health care. scaling down wars, figuring out how to grow and build a it was anss, extraordinary experience and there were some highs and lows but it would not have traded it for everything. >> what was it like for that
first day? stunning. a funny story, before we moved in, i was one of the cochairs of the transition team. we started working literally the day after the election preparing for the transition of power. i always give president bush a shout out because they did everything possible to insure we could hit the ground running. they volunteered as much information as possible. it's a lot about democracy where he knew it was his responsibility to help us. the first time i went to the white house as part of the transition team, i went with mike who is now with the obama foundation. he was overseeing the organization of the staffing of the offices of public engagement.
we going to the white house together and right before christmas and the decorations for up and it was just at twilight. we were petrified to say the least. excited, exhilarated, did not know what we were going to encounter. we were first of all delighted they let us in. [laughter] was more worried about mike than myself. through the gates and are walking up and look at the white house and it is all lit up. the cameramen who are around cameramen, one of the yelled out welcome to the white house. we burst into tears very -- into tears. asked me growing up
what were the chances of my ever working in the white house, even knowing or meeting the president of the united states, i would have been stunned. that first day was overwhelming. the parade was going on in front of the white house. mike and i were trying to figure out where the bathrooms were. >> had you ever been in the white house before that day? there toi had been in other times. i was invited as a guest when president clinton was president. aroundertainly not been the way we explored and discovered it over the eight years we were there. >> if that was the first day, what was it like on the last day? valerie: i was determined to be there on the last day. i wanted to just finish out this
entire journey. people always joked and wondered how i would last for eight years. it never occurred to me to leave early. that last day, it was bittersweet. i went over early, and they have a tradition where they fly a flag on the first and last day of the illustration, and then the people who oversee the white house deliver the flag to the president and the first lady. and ited that ceremony was quite powerful and emotional as you would imagine. i was there when president-elect trump and mike pence and there's us is arrived. an indication of how hard you have to work no matter how you might feel about the outcome of an election. we tried very hard to do some of the same things for the trump transition team as president bush did for us.
it was nice to see the house come down to say that final goodbye. there were a lot of tears. >> you have been described as president and michelle obama's first friend. what does that imply? valerie: we are really good buddies. i have known them 26 years. i was telling the story last friday about how i met them. i was sent a copy of a resume. anoss the top, she wrote outstanding young lawyer. i thought my kind of person. i wasn't too hot on law firm life either. 10 minutes into the interview
i've figured out i was no longer interviewing her, she was interviewing me. i made her an offer on the spot. her fiance said it was not such a great idea. she said we started the community organizer and what if he does not agree with something mayor daley does? who will be looking out for me? would you have dinner with the three of us? >> i said yes and that was a wise decision. it really was the beginning of what i know would be a lifelong friendship. years,e course of 26 they married, had two amazing children. we were involved with each other professionally and personally
over the course of the normal this is a two to of life. everyone in here who has a friend that you made friends with 26 years ago, you have become pretty good friends. at thiscting back experience, what do you think were the greatest successes of president obama and his team? valerie: number one, saving our economy. the fact that you now have millions of people who have jobs and whonot have them were at risk of losing them is very important. ensure rules in place to that the banks were not able to take risks with other people's money. we wanted to make sure that we did not repeat that tragedy again. those rules are in place and i hope they stay in place. i am proud of the work we did around the affordable care act. i'm confused about how it turned
into such a politically charged issue. what is wrong with wanting everybody to have affordable health care? i just don't get that. [applause] on the international stage, i'm proud of the fact we were able to strike a deal with a consortium of other countries to ensure that iran does not develop nuclear weapons. reestablishing the relationship with cuba i think is transformative. on the world stage, i think president obama tried hard to show that force is not the only way you solve big problems. you really do need to use diplomacy. you should not be afraid to use force that you should also use diplomacy. i think our reputation improved on the world stage. [applause] we reduced our dependence on foreign oil. amazing strides we made towards energy efficiency.
we do have to recognize that the climate is changing. [applause] the fact that we were able to get nearly 200 countries to come together in paris, not just government commitments but private commit to death but private sector commitments to find. we want to leave the environment to our children and grandchildren that are than we found it. >> we are proud you were part of that. how about the lack of success? what do you think rankled the president and some like yourself the most? valerie: i will give you three. first of all, i deeply regret we were unable to get congress to back just the simplest of laws requiring universal background checks before we could give people access to legal weapons -- lethal weapons. [applause] why wouldn't you do that? we focus on the tragedy of sandy
hook. it was certainly my worst day during the president's time in office. we heard the news in a couple days later went to newtown and participated in a memorial service. soon thereafter i came back home to chicago with the first lady and attended the funeral of a woman who was murdered just a mile or so from where we live in north kenwood, oakland area. orther it is a mass tragedy one daughter, we can do better. that is one big disappointment. another big disappointment was on comprehensive immigration reform. we are a nation of laws but we are also a nation of immigrants. people are drawn to the united states because this is the land of opportunity. we should have been able to get congress with the bipartisan support to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
tot would've been a path citizenship for many people in this country and who do contribute to our quality of life as well as providing opportunities for people who come here and enjoy our incredible institution. what we do after they get their degree? we send them back home so they can compete in another country. why wouldn't they stay here? i suppose the final one is disappointing to me is because it was one of my responsibilities and that was to get criminal justice reform legislation through congress. reducel there was to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. they're full of people who either long facilities where they can get treatment for substance abuse or they deserve to have better education.
we need to be investing in people when they are incarcerated. we need to be hiring them when they are released from prison and giving them that second chance. the piece of that that we did not get done was the piece that required congressional action. we had bipartisan support. if anyone told me i would spend the quantity of time i did with the general counsel, that could not be. they were supportive of it and we had grover norquist, very fiscally conservative academic on the right and the aclu on the left and everyone in between. still, congress refused to act. the good news is there is work inng on across the country cook county, cities, states, passing legislation. the vast majority of people incarcerated are at the state and local level.
2.2 million people are incarcerated. 11 million cycle through our jails on an annual asis. there is important work that can be done outside of federal government. >> thank you. could you describe president obama's management and leadership style? , did youow-up to that ever tell him no and what was his reaction? valerie: i will start with the first one. that is easier. his management style is i think first of all -- it takes the long view. there were a lot of decisions he made as president that might not materialize and come to fruition. i think heart of the challenge when you are an elected official is that you tend to by necessity focus on the election cycle. there are certain things you can do right after you are elected that you can't do in an election year. your moment for bold change its limited and he always managed to
say let's take the long view. there were people who encouraged him not to go forward with the affordable care act and they said save that for later, it will erode your popularity. his point was what is the point of being popular and most are going to do old things? -- bold things? [applause] it, the think about legislation was contested twice, where the lawsuits what all the way to the supreme court. it was important we had that runway because it takes a while to get it done. i wish we had had four more years to have it firmly as part of the fabric and then it would be harder to unravel. we are finding it is hard to unravel anyway. he takes the long view. he is a very good listener. intellectually curious. he has high emotional intelligence, and he gives you
his undivided attention. whether you are the most junior person in the room or you were his chief of staff, he always wanted to hear what people have to say. he treated people working in the white house -- i know kelly walsh is here. wanted to know as much as he could before he made a decision because the president's decisions are pretty important. he wanted to be informed and make intellectual decisions. he used to joke with us saying why don't you bring me some of the easy decisions? that is what your staff does. you get the tough ones, the ones that keep you up at night. notenk it is important to that he was very inclusive in his decision-making. he was not afraid to make a decision and did not just admire
the problem and enjoy the conversation. the whole point was to drive it to a conclusion so we could move on to the next one. he was very patient in that process. not necessarily patient with all of us, although he never lost his temper. he always has that kind of even temper. if he did not have all the information he needed, he did not make the decision. he would send us back and said i want you to answer these five questions and then i will make the decision when i am ready. another big strength as he considered diversity of strength. he surrounded himself with a whole range of people who came from different perspectives than he did, so he listened most closely to those with whom he disagreed and that improved his decision-making as well. issounds like his style different from the current white house. [laughter] valerie: let me get to the other
question, which was what happens when i would say no. first of all, you don't just say no. you say this is my opinion. part of that management is that people who were on his team felt so good about the process that in the end when he made a decision, you often could not remember where you started on this and end up in a different place because it was one that was intended to get by. when you are running the country and you meet so many people who implement your decisions, it is good to include them in the process. it makes implementation a lot smoother. you and your colleagues the other night, you said in an interview that when you worked for mayor richard and daily -- richard daley that you are terrified.
[laughter] he is the mayor of the city of chicago and we were still kind of young and thrilled to have these incredible positions he had given us very he believed in putting women into high-powered positions. we were very happy to be there and he scared us a bit. it is true. that susanhe story and i were telling, we told this in the context of being in his office very early soon after she was appointed head of corporation counsel. we love to tell the story because it says so much about him and so much about culture. ,hat is we are sitting there supposed be paying attention to what the topic of the meeting was. were payings
attention. we kept looking at our watches. finally he says what is it that you will want to do that is more important than what we are doing here? i looked at susan and we had this moment of truth and i said the halloween parade starts in 20 minutes. it is 25 minutes away. we both held our breath. we didn't know what he would say. what he said was what are you doing here? the relief we felt to have our boss and power us, both single moms, and if we did not show up at the parade there would not be a parent there. we go flying down lakeshore drive at 100 miles per hour and just as these little darlings are coming out of their costumes. you can see them looking through the crowd for us and we were there. we were there because mayor daley gave us permission to go. he and maggie supported leaving by example. i think that model served well.
we both worked in the white house to encourage her junior staff to be sure to take care of you can be and that in a high-powered position but still be a good parent. [applause] >> i understand halloween was his favorite holiday. valerie: even if it had been halloween -- what susan said is the best excuse in a world of you had to get out of a meeting was parent-teacher conference. we love -- we had a lot of parent-teacher conferences. [laughter] >> there are so many women that he appointed to meaningful positions. he obviously recognized talent and energy and creativity. we can name many.
is mayor daley a strong feminist? valerie: yes, absolutely, unequivocally. i think he has raised his children to feel the same way. you can compete on an evening playing field regardless of gender. you should be mindful of supporting working families. yes, i think he was. he was amazingly supportive of each of us. come whense did you president obama gave up his senate seat -- valerie: i knew you were going there. >> to city clubs? had coasted to come to making a decision to strike up for that seat. you are recorded as saying that obama dissuaded you.
valerie: i had considered seriously throwing my hat in the ring. closest friends were all supportive of it and thought it would be great to be a u.s. senator, a principal if you will. all for it. what the president ultimately said is i know you, i know the senate. i know what i want in the white house. i think you will enjoy the executive ranch more and will feel as though your impact could be greater in the executive branch. senate. to joining the boy was he right. i am very glad i did not join the senate. those who did work in the senate or in the house, it is extremely
frustrating. there are so many people who are putting the short term lyrical agendas ahead -- short-term political agendas ahead of what is the greater good. you talk to our u.s. senators, they will tell you it is frustrating. i think they do an amazing job and i am glad they're fighting for is each and every day. i think i made the right decision to be in the executive branch. >> how frustrated would you say that president obama became over merrick garland and the refusal to give him a senate hearing? valerie: on a scale of one to 10, i would put it at about 52. it is ridiculous. he is elected for a four-year term. that four-year term ended january 20 of this year, not one year earlier. it is the first time in history where you had a vacancy during an election year that was not filled. a vacancythere was
was for justice kennedy when he was nominated by reagan. vice president biden was then president of the judiciary committee. him a hearing that he was confirmed almost unanimously. that is how it is supposed to go. you give a hearing to the president's nominee, you do it in public so the american people can see for themselves how those questions are answered and if i were you, i would get some input from your constituents and then make your own judgment. we are insay because an election year we are going to strip the president of the power he has to make an appointment? it is unheard of. not only is it unheard of, then you ended up with a court that was split 4-4. this is a group of a lot of business and civic leaders. you don't like uncertainty.
youcan imagine right now could have different circuits coming to different conclusions and then that is the law in those circuits. the supreme court makes the ultimate decisions. it is had for his notes, it provides a lack of certainty and it is not the reason why our democracy created the supreme court. pretty ticked off about that. [laughter] >> take that to the bank. [applause] yet. i'm done but i should have led with is there is not anybody i know that was not appointed to the supreme court with better qualifications. he is the chief judge of the d c, served their 19 years. all of the time that you heard of his appointment being held up , i never heard a single
republican on the judiciary committee or in the senate say he was not completely qualified for the job. done now. ,> speaking of elected office would you consider a run in the future for an elective office? valerie: i don't think so. now. i think i am on a different stage of my life. never say never. i said i would never work for the federal government and then what did i do? i worked for the federal government. you feel as though the federal government is so far away and there programs not tied to your reality. what we try to do when derek was in the white house -- we tried to ensure that our programs were being tailored to the needs of the community. do want to continue to be a force for good.
we just made public that i'm signed on to be a pro bono advisor to the obama foundation and am very often what it can do. [applause] it is not my day job but it is something i am passionate about. theink the president and first lady and their team are committed to making not only a beacon of hope and an engine of economics in chicago on the south side. for the country and the world. they are less interested in the library part of it than they are in the center and the foundation , which is not looking to the past and all heated as president -- which is important and educational and historic -- but to the future. they are to externally talented people who are still very young, trying to make an impact and
making it into a platform for engagement to solve some of the big problems left unsolved here in our nation and around the world. that will take off of bunch of my time. i invite everybody here to participate. civic engagement is something you do not get hired to do. hopefully you are born recognizing it is your responsibility to do as a citizen. >> we commit -- we appreciate your commitment to it. job.ie: it is a full-time i'm looking forward to working with mike. he has made a big impact since arriving back home in chicago. >> many of us were impressed with the president's wife, with michelle's activities during the last presidential campaign. be au think she could candidate to run for public office in the future?
valerie: i think it's safe in saying no. i think she considered being the first lady of the united states -- also an unpaid job where you work hard -- ably -- a great platform to work hard. remove childhood obesity or the work she and dr. biden did. trying to inspire younger people to go to college. , thereiece last year were 100 million girls around the world who are not in school and we know that staying at school is the best indicator of economics assassin life -- economics success in life. she felt passionately about the subject and thought she could help move the needle. that work will continue. both will sort through the issues they want to devote the rest of their life too. as i said earlier, that will be
focused in their on the obama center. i don't think she will be running for office. >> one of the questions that was , democratic us activists have watched as the senate, the house of representatives and the presidency have slipped away to the republican party. what do you think it will take to write what appears to many to be a sinking ship? don't think our ship is sinking. in fact, i am still very optimistic about our country. part of it is i now get to spend so much time outside of washington. when you do you see the amazing transformation happening across our country. i think what it is going to take is that 43% of the people who did not vote in the last election getting engaged.
i don't just mean in the presidential election. it is important who your alderman is, who was on the county board, who is the mayor and the state legislature. one of the areas where eric holder is spending time is on this whole issue of redistricting. we have gerrymandered our lines in such a way the american people are not getting their fair voice. my optimism comes from the opportunity and potential for civic engagement. when the american people decide they want to get involved and elect people who they think represent them and turn out to vote, then that is when things will change. i am hoping that happens. [applause] and we want to create debt part iswhat president obama
really interested in is creating a mechanism by which young people can find out the best practices to run for office. i meet people across the country who are interested but don't know where to begin. they want to get cynically involved but how do you do that? committed teaching engagement in the way he started his career. around way for people the world for the younger leaders and who are the ones we should all be nurturing and encouraging to run for office and supporting them when they do. we need a strong bench. as a party, the democratic party does not have the bench we should have. >> you have to build a farm system. a couple last questions. this is from a trustee at roosevelt university. he would like to know what -- he is hiding behind
his wife. what changes should be made to improve obamacare? is there a chance of a bipartisan group merging to make those changes? i will answer the second question first, i have no idea because of the toxicity in washington. if there were a will to do it they could do it. i think they can move away from this whole repeal which is just political. [applause] when you save repeal, keep in mind it is not just the 20 million people who have health insurance through the exchanges, it is the people who and a fitted from the expansion of medicaid in 31 of our states -- 39 of our states. who benefitedle from knowing that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against them if they have pre-existing conditions. at my age, most of us have some
sort of pre-existing condition. looking around the room, your h2 bank. -- your age to thank. -- your age too. 1 [laughter] forn can now go when preventative care without a co-pay. it is huge. you can get that annual checkup that you don't have to worry about last time or annual tax. the aca thatt in did not get the attention i thought it deserved. if you say let's repeal it, i would say to you why? you ask what you do to improve it or do we need to make the exchanges healthier. part of what has helped is if the republicans had helped us market to younger people. he wants to have a reasonably healthy pool because that makes the numbers work. young people think that they
will live forever and it is hard to get them to buy insurance. gettingg get better and a bitter mix in the pool would have helped. perhaps we should have had more of a subsidy to encourage people to participate and in encourage the insurancep companies until the pool was healthy enough they weren't pulling out of markets. you saw companies pull out of markets because in the short run they were losing market. in order to keep them there for the long run it would have required deeper subsidies. there are ways in which the aca could be improved. have aress what it do sensible conversation on the merits they would come up with solutions. not think the plan proposed by republicans that would have dumped 24 million people off of the insurance was a good solution. there certainly could be ones that would work. >> this is from tom mcelroy. way in the back. worknts to know all the
that your team did to structure a smooth transition, it appears that the current administration has ignored that or chose not to act. how do you really feel? valerie: thanks tom. job is to do the very best job we could preparing as many transitions, both documents and in person meetings as possible. they have the benefit of what we learned over the eight years. it is up to them to choose how to go forward. i can't tell you that we accepted everything president bush's team told us. each new administration is free to make their own decisions. all i can comment on was what my job was and that was to work very hard and we learned a lot over eight years.
he transferred over like a baton. then it is up to them. questionsre a couple but we won't have time. i'm curious -- the girls, sasha and molly at -- melia, they seem to be positive. a tribute to their parents and their hard work too. i think if you were to ask the president and first lady what truly made a difference, the first lady's chief of staff, it was nothing like having your mom right there helping out when you are living in this completely different world and the world they lived in in chicago. i was a single mom and i could not have made it without the help of my parents. having her there, having the
continuity, having another adult there if the two of them had to of town, someone the girls loved deeply and sincerely who only had their best interests at heart was absolutely essential and made a huge difference. >> we did not even ask about the dogs. [laughter] valerie: they are just precious. adorable. if they asked me president or first lady were taking the dogs with them. i told them they obviously did not have dogs. of course they're taking their dogs with them. [laughter] futurehere a book in the ♪ valerie: -- is there a book in the future? valerie: yes i hope so. i have a lot to say. i might. i might just do that.
[applause] thank you very much. >> don't leave yet. we just have a couple items of business. --ifetime measurement membership to the city club of chicago. the famous city club mug, often imitated, never duplicated. [laughter] if we could ask you to close your eyes and pick out one of these business cards out of here for our drawing. normally it is a trip to the .slands blue, stony, or goose. something a little different today. $200 my gianna gets certificate certificates.ft
we're going to pick out another name. he deals with ethics and resolutions and what have you. we don't want to get him in trouble. carrie daniels. [applause] thank you so much. jack. will just see one of our board of governors. last but not least. let's everybody give valerie jarrett a big round of applause. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
fellow talks about new york's new program that will make state and city universities tuition free for families with incomes up to $135,000. u.s.crocker, former ambassador to six countries including syria, afghanistan and iraq looks at recent tensions in the region, including u.s. military action in syria and afghanistan. watch c-span's washington journal live at 7:00 a.m. eastern tuesday morning. join the discussion. >> sunday night on afterwords, angressman of government -- commitment of colorado discusses his book train the swamp, how washington corruption is worse than you think. when you arrive in d.c. and have the surroundings described earlier, you don't want to give up those comforts her to the way
to continue to earn discomforts is to spend more money, and to grow government and to not solve problems, but to create programs and take credit for those programs, whether they are efficient or effective, to take credit for them. many of the members of congress it is the best job they have ever had, the highest paying job they have ever had and it is a job that they don't want to give up. reelection is more important than the actual problem solving that needs to go on in d.c.. nightch afterwords sunday on c-span twos book tv. next, we hear from another obama administration official, loretta lynch. she returned to harvard law